Everyone should live in a healthy home. Creating and maintaining safe spaces is especially important when a member of the household has epilepsy, and it’s not difficult to accomplish.
During and after a seizure, people can become confused, and are at greater risk of injury. There are several things you can do to decrease the chance of accidents. You probably know that adding padding or carpeting to hard floor surfaces (like wood or tile) may cushion a fall and reduce injuries. But did you know that covering faucet handles and countertop edges with protective padding is also recommended?
Let’s review some practical advice for a safe home and consider some recreational activities that may be appropriate for a person with epilepsy.
How can I safeguard my kitchen?
The kitchen is among the most important rooms to consider when safeguarding your home. Health and safety hazards lurk everywhere. Here are some ways to help optimize the safety of your kitchen.
Keep your hot water temperature in check: Maintaining a constant setting may help prevent the water temperature from getting too high. The CDC recommends setting your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees Fahrenheit or lower (see below: How can I safeguard my bathroom?). Ask your plumber to install a heat control device in your faucet so the water doesn’t get too hot. For your water heater you may need to ask your service provider to adjust the thermostat.
Cook in a microwave: Using a microwave may decrease the risk of fire or burns, but you must still be mindful of hot containers, overheated foods, or exploding liquids. And use only microwave safe cookware. Microwave cookbooks are available.
Remove flammable objects from the stovetop: Keeping flammable objects, including loose sleeves away from the stovetop may help prevent fires.
Use oven mitts: Protecting hands from hot handles is good practice (but don’t leave an oven mitt near a heat source).
Don’t leave a working stovetop unattended: If food is cooking on the stovetop, keep your attention on it.
Store food in non-breakable containers: Glass and porcelain may not survive being dropped.
How can I safeguard my bathroom?
From cuts to falls to drowning, bathrooms are well known as rooms full of risk, especially for someone with uncontrolled seizures. Here are ways to make your bathroom safer:
Keep your hot water temperature in check: See above, “How can I safeguard my kitchen?” Ask your plumber to install a heat control device in your tub and showerhead so the water doesn’t get too hot.
Hot water epilepsy (HWE) is a benign reflex epilepsy (a stimulus triggered seizure) provoked by water pouring over the head and upper body. A study found the average trigger temperature to be 106.5 degrees F, about the average shower temperature. This is just another reason to keep your water temperature at a constant, relatively low temperature.
Do not put a lock on the door: Someone should always be able to get in in case of emergency. Consider hanging an “occupied” sign, or the like, outside the door to offer privacy to anyone inside. If you do wish to have a door with a lock, consider a push button lock, which can be opened from the outside when the safety key (or a straight pin or straightened paper clip) is inserted into the hole in the center of the door knob.
Attach the door to swing out: Whatever happens inside the bathroom (think: a fall that blocks the door), someone can always get in if the door swings out.
Make the shower and tub slip-resistant: Apply non-slip strips or a rubber mat to the floor and attach grab bars to the walls. Shower chairs can be helpful too.
Take showers instead of baths: According to the CDC, drowning is the most common cause of unintentional injury death for people with seizure disorders. If you have frequent seizures, you can further protect yourself from injury or worse by bathing only when someone else is in the house.
How can someone with epilepsy participate safely in physical activities?
For the majority of people with epilepsy, the benefits of being active and exercising outweigh the risks. (Always consult with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise regimen.) According to the Epilepsy Foundation exercise is rarely a trigger for seizure activity and may lessen the risk of seizure. That said, your epilepsy might require modifications to or avoidance of certain activities, especially high risk ones like scuba diving and rock climbing. Consult your doctor to determine what’s right for you, ideally before you start a new program or practice. And if your seizures are frequent or not fully controlled, don’t exercise alone. It’s a good idea to have someone with you who knows how to manage a seizure, and to keep emergency contacts in your phone.
Written exclusively for EpilespyAdvocate.com